07.09.2015 - 08.08.2015

Soler Santos

The baffling image, or must it be, the anxious image. This is the ongoing investigation of artists in recent times, reducing the painted image to nothingness as seen in the eradication of the recognizable image into non-objective abstraction; and, using the image as a medium to retell a story many times over via its manipulation, debunking, reversal, and juxtaposition. For its present usage, it crosses over both definitions. It is an image that is recognizable but uniquely is an abstract one; and not only does it tell the story of the scenes it depicts but also the story outside of it, a sequential barrage of related and thematic images that indexes an image bank that is at the core of an artist’s agenda. Thus, it seems, the image begins to tell its own story, its own language and history begins.

On another plane, Soler Santos has taken a very serious segment of his oeuvre and is now running the gauntlet. For the artist, the photographed image has been an ever-present preoccupation, dabbling with the medium since his early professional inception. Photography has been a vital tool if not a recognized medium in Soler’s arsenal; dating back to his prodigious solo exhibition at the powerhouse Luz Gallery in 1981, the artist painted pictures of plant leaves and roots rendered photo-realistically.  For the past three years, the artist has photographed these scenes in ruin, and seeing their importance, have posted these pictures on social media sites. A form of artistic liberation, Soler has gone through tremendous lengths for the current series, at one opportunity, walking about an estimated three kilometer radius from his studio to seek for these derelict sites; and in another instance even allocating time for a hunt while on vacation in a famous leisure hotspot.

Being its own metaphor poses its questions. There are, however, more evidences in these pictures, especially of nostalgic loss. The artist cannot help but imagine what these post-glory scenes might have been if still amongst the living: a sports club in old Manila, a restaurant in a hotel near the shoreline of Baler, a hospital in Mindoro. These abandoned scenes cease to be in reality, but they persist in their documentation. For the artist capturing its essence, they come to life in their own arranged chaos. In an odd rhetorical reversal, it was once postulated the subject photographed begins its own death as the photograph survives while the subject regresses into its natural cessation. If a negative negates a negative, does a scene of abandonment only becomes more mortal than dead when photographed? 

It is not wise to fall into the trap of classifying these pictures as a form of social critique, as may be aligned with the clamor against industrialization and the specter of modernity being an unstoppable machine that expunges all by the wayside. Nor the power of the artist’s gaze: is it a condescending brow at these demolished rooms and abodes? Vis-à-vis, is it a strike at the powers of confinement or commerce these walls and spaces represent? The common eye does not see much into these rotting banalities, perhaps only the learned and illumined. There is beauty in this fraught ugliness. Making sense of the random destruction emanates its own benefit. Soler has spoken of finding these by not really looking for them: translated and paraphrased, “a spot finds me and I respond”. Perhaps the only intervention for the artist is his ability to frame these scenes uniquely. Soler has always had an eye for framing that has been consistent with his body of work, particular in the nature scenes that are reconstituted by its cropping and recombination with other parts in an abstract composition, also identifiably his own. Art thinkers have theorized how certain arrangements in the natural world affect us, hitting a nerve and poking us back into our belief that there is a subliminal godhead that underlies the natural balance and order of things. This is archetypal. Soler has only responded to this with vigor and detachment, selflessness, and, forgiving the pastiche pun, much abandonment in his work; and thus, even at the risk of taking on a thematic challenge, maturely achieving much and gaining all.

words by Jonathan Olazo

Sum of Its Parts
07.09.2015 - 08.08.2015


MM Yu’s latest exhibition, Sum of its Parts, is the artist’s continuous attempt in mapping the urban.  Positioning herself as a cartographer, she effortlessly plots points of identification and obsessively archives them as clues of the present. Treading on matters of displacement, the overlapping details in the photographs highlight a sense of contrast: distress in the quiet, appeal in the ordinary. Each composition, a collage of the organic with the manmade, is etched with impressions of the elements. Deteriorating metal sheets, cracking concrete, chipping paint,  discolored plastic, decaying wood, discarded furniture and overgrown vines assimilate into each other. Overlooked narratives are made visible, as it is imprinted on each light and shadow, and every pulse of color.
Resembling scars and residual textures of time, folds, dents and creases are captured and felt through the frame. A tug towards a consciousness of the human condition, mired with consumerism and degeneration, put into light. The necessities and wants of humanity morph the very space they stand on. This confrontation with such unapologetic simplicity is seen tangled with numerous and diverse chronicles of the metro. Far from the usual documentation, the artist anchors to a facet that is usually disregarded. Spoils and decline are boxed in Yu’s vibrant palette. Then, the images are flagged and enlarged, turning them into matters of importance.  Mounted and carefully arranged, a familiar yet novel geography, a unique sense of space, is introduced.
These maps are far from flat or tranquil. They are not mere artifacts, simply rolled and stored into history. Dis-order is redefined not in the sense of chaos but in shifting and repositioning. This brings forth a terrain that is recognizable yet indistinct, straightforward but abstract. Navigating through the contemporary, a back and forth appropriation of these peripheries re-align the landscape of the everyday where multiplicity of interpretations and constancy of flux are their paradigm.

words by Iris Ferrer

07.09.2015 - 08.08.2015

Datu Arellano

Tahi is the Tagalog word for stitch and kami is paper in Japanese. Combined they form Tahigami, a word I made up, which means stitching on paper. On the surface Tahigami seems to be a style or technique of drawing. On a much deeper level Tahi to me now is about connecting, discovering common threads, finding intersections and meaning, forming relationships. Kami may as well be any conceptual or actual surface, ground, or plane, and not just paper.

From an obsession with a three-sided polygon that began in 2011, this work is evolving into a framework for creating visual and musical compositions. This process - oriented framework gave me the chance to reflect on and explore geometry and algorithmic thinking, time and space, order and chaos, melody and harmony, therapy and healing, to name a few.


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